Your marriage, or the marriage of people you love, may be in danger. You want to know if counseling can help improve the health of the relationship. There are some factors that may affect the potential success or failure of therapy for a given couple; understanding these factors is important in the decision whether or not to seek professional help.
How Marriage Therapy Can Help
Marriage counseling can help distressed couples make sense of their problems and explore them from a new perspective. In an article in the “Journal of Marital and Family Therapy,” family therapy researchers report that couples in marital counseling can learn new ways to communicate and solve problems, to safely share emotional issues and secrets they were afraid to expose and to enhance positive behaviors and personal and relational strengths. According to this research, counseling helps about 7 in 10 couples find greater satisfaction in their relationship.
When Marriage Counseling Cannot Help
Some couples seek out therapy after problems are too ingrained and longstanding for counseling to be effective. There are even situations in which a partner brings the spouse to therapy in order to have a safer place in which to announce the decision to end the marriage and no amount of counseling will change this. In other situations, addictions and some kinds of mental illness prevent the effectiveness of couples counseling until the addiction or illness has been treated.
The Marriage Counselor
Just as individuals are complex, so are relationships. Therefore, the effective couples counselor will be a qualified practitioner in marital therapy, having received training from a recognized academic institute. Furthermore, psychologist Alan Carr recommends that the therapist have additional training in a variety of therapy models and adult mental health issues. Either on the phone or in the first interview, question the therapist’s training and credentials. Pay attention, as well, to how you feel in the therapist’s presence; a good therapist-client fit is essential to the success of the therapy and don’t hesitate to shop around.
Alternatives to Marriage Counseling
Couples counseling is not for everyone. According to a maritalmediation.com article, mediation may be preferable for some couples. In this approach, couples learn communication and negotiation skills that help them navigate their way through current and future disagreements without a lot of attention to childhood issues. An article on apa.org, the website of the American Psychological Association, describes the effectiveness of three marital education or enrichment programs for improving couples’ relationships. These are well-organized programs with clear goals and exercises for practicing new skills at home. Some are even carried out in group settings.
- Journal of Marital and Family Therapy: Research on the Treatment of Couples Distress; Jay L. Lebow, Ph.D., Anthony L. Chambers, Ph.D., Andrew Christensen, Ph.D. and Susan M. Johnson, Ph.D.
- Journal of Family Therapy: The effectiveness of family therapy and systemic interventions for adult-focused problems; Alan Carr, Ph.D.
- maritalmediation.com: Marital Mediation or Marital Counseling
- apa.org: Marital Education Programs Help Keep Couples Together
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